By Chris Capps 11/4/11
Popular logic suggests that killing any cell is likely a bad thing for us – in that we lose a microscopic part of ourselves that then must be replaced through normal cell division. But scientists working at the Mayo clinic have found a therapy that targeted and destroyed a very specific type of cell in mice. And the results were dramatically fewer age related illnesses and raised general health. And so it seems a number of age related illnesses can in part be traced back to these cells. Could a final cure for death be far off?
Senescent cells are cells that have been told by the body to shut down. And when they do shut down they begin releasing hormones that then can cause undesirable traits in future cells. Once these cells begin their downward spiral of self destruction they too can give rise to things like cataracts and other age related illnesses. At least that's what the theory was. But how do you target only the cells that are the problem? And will there be other effects on the body?
Scientists took this theory and the questions that came along with it and applied them to a study of mice. The mice were given a drug that targeted and killed the senescent cells in their bodies. Since many of the systems of mice and humans work in similar ways, but not exactly the same the experiment is thought to reveal that the same Senescent cells, which are the cause for age related problems in mice may one day be found to be a major contributing factor to age related illnesses in humans. And if a method such as flushing the cells which have been shut down from the body of a mouse may help them age gracefully, then the same ailments such as cataracts in humans may be soon be found to have a similar conclusion.
This comes on the heels of another age related discovery made in the past decade after an examination of Telomeres and their function as well as the role they play in developing cancers after a certain age. The Telomeres, and their ability to divide regularly and reliably have been said to be one of the key components to discovering once and for all a cure for mortality.
But with these different studies encompassing a wide spectrum of biological phenomena and allowing us to look into our own bodies, it seems the fountain of eternal, rather than elongated life will one day be upon us. But there is an interesting component to this too in the way we humans deal with age and age related illnesses. It seems the entirety of science has been pushing us in a direction toward self improvement. But rather than dealing with something like age with the same type of research as a specific illness, the urgency is lost. Is a matter of perspective all that keeps our generation from immortality? What if we were to look at each age related death as a loss due to the same disease – and work toward curing that disease? Would the research of humanity and arguably the closeness of its results, be different?